Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.
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Fear and Pregnancy During Advent
I’m 30 weeks pregnant now, 40 weeks is the due date, and I cannot ignore the inevitable. Up until this point I haven’t really had to come to grips with giving birth to my second child. I’ve been able to avoid thinking about it because of how far off it seemed but now I have to face it. Physically, there is no way for me to avoid the fast-approaching day when this baby (God willing) will enter this world. I’ve been clipping corners in my house and hitting my belly with the refrigerator door because it is getting that much in the way now. I even have to take an extra step back when I open drawers and have to consciously position the seatbelt and seat when I’m driving.
I think that God purposefully made pregnancy last so long because by the end of it fear is replaced by the sheer readiness to no longer be pregnant. Replaced by almost exasperation to get this baby out just so your body doesn’t have to bear the weight and waddling anymore. But I’m not there yet. I can’t help but feel this looming fear. When I really think about it, I know, in my head, that this fear is unreasonable. The reward of a new baby is worth the nine months of pregnancy and the pain and uncertainty of birth. But I still get knots in my stomach at the thought of going through child birth again.
Some of our friends just had their second child. We went to visit them and got to hold their new little one. It made me so excited to think about holding our new baby when the day comes. As Christmas approaches, I can’t help but feel a little sad that this baby won’t be born in time to celebrate Christmas with us this year.
I love having kids; it’s the birthing part that is the struggle. Being pregnant and giving birth is just such a paradox. It’s hard in the best of ways. It’s scary in the most exciting of ways. It’s painful in the most purposeful and fruitful of ways.
When Brandon and I got married we took the “we promise to openly and lovingly accept children from God” seriously, regardless of my fear of birth. This is obviously a fear that God wants me to confront repeatedly. There is just something so out-of-my-control about giving birth. You don’t know the time or the place it is going to happen. You don’t know if there are going to be complications. You don’t know how fast it’s going to go. But the hardest part is anticipating the pain. You don’t know if contractions will be worse or easier than the first baby. You don’t know if you’re going to be able to handle the pain naturally or if you’re going to give in and get pain medicine.
I pray about it a lot. I know that giving birth is just one day (hopefully) and we get a beautiful child at the end of it. I keep telling myself that: it’s just one day. One hard day. I’ve been through hard days before: my first day of teaching; when I had to lip sync R-E-S-P-E-C-T alone in front of my speech class in the 8th grade; when I ran a marathon. I had months to prepare for all these things and just the thought of any of these activities made my palms sweat. But I got through them all.
I also like to think of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity. These two women were mothers and martyrs. They were both arrested for being Christians and sentenced to death in the arena where they were attacked by a “savage cow” (a bull I would assume) and eventually killed by gladiators. Both these women walked into the arena, not full of fear, but as if they were entering heaven. Their faith took away their fear of bodily pain and focused them on their reward, heaven. This may seem a bit dramatic but if these women can face this sort of torturous death with joy, then I should be able to face child birth with courage and joy, too.
As I’ve been meditating and praying, I’ve realized how Advent is a good time for me to face my fear. During her pregnancy, I’m sure Mary had moments of fear and uncertainty. She had a long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. She had to have been nervous about giving birth to Jesus away from her family and hometown. Maybe she was nervous that she was going to go into labor in the middle of nowhere. At the very least, riding a donkey while nine months pregnant must have been extremely uncomfortable. Her faith in God, I’m sure, is what brought her peace and comfort.
During Advent we are supposed to be preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ. It is supposed to be a time of great hope. A hope that will dispel the darkness. I suspect this Advent, God wants me to focus on preparing for the coming of Christ in the form of the little one that keeps kicking me and refuses to stop kicking even when I’m trying to sleep. During Mass this past Sunday, the pastor spoke about how fear can drive out hope. If we let fear take over, we quickly fall into despair and misery. I see how easy it is for me to become so overrun by fear that I forget what a gift it is to be pregnant in the first place. What a blessing it is, despite any pain or discomfort I’ve had to go through, to have a child. I have to cling to the hope that, even if the fear doesn’t go away, God will get me through giving birth again. Maybe I can even hope a little in having an easier time than the first.